Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)
(A theme for a sermon on giving praise to God for mercy received: One of them.)
15. There follows, thirdly:
And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice
glorifying God. And he fell on his face before his feet, giving thanks: and this was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering, said, Were not ten made clean? and where are the nine? There is no-one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger. And he said to him: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole. (Lc 17,15-19)
The foreigner did three things: he returned, he fell on his face, and he gave thanks.
Someone ‘returns’ when he attributes no virtue to himself. Whatever good he does, he recognises as coming from mercy. He is called a ‘Samaritan’ (guard) because he attributes to God those good things that he receives, so as to say with the psalmist: I will keep my strength to thee (Ps 58,10), that is, ‘by attributing it to thee’. Do you want to keep what you have received? Then attribute it to God, not yourself. If you give yourself credit for what is not yours, you are guilty of theft. And if you do not ascribe to yourself what belongs to another, you make what is yours another’s. There is a concordance to this in Job, where the Lord says to him:
Canst thou send lightnings? And will they go,
and will they return and say to thee: Here we are? (Jb 38,35)
Lightning goes forth from the clouds, and in the same way wonderful works are shown by holy preachers. When preachers shine with miracles, lightning goes forth. When they return, they say, ‘Here we are’, when they credit God’s power, not their own, with the mighty works they know they have done. Alternatively, ‘sending’ and ‘going’ refers to going out from the secrecy of contemplation to public activity. ‘Returning’, and saying to God, ‘Here we are’, refers to their return to contemplation after their outward activity.
(On the ruin of the just man, and the two kinds of temptation: A mountain falling.)
16. Again, someone ‘falls on his face’ when he is ashamed of the evil things he has done. A man ‘falls’ when he is brought low. He who falls on his face can see where he is falling; he who falls on his back cannot. So, the good fall on their faces, because they humble themselves in regard to visible things, seeing what follows from them, so that they may rise to what is unseen. Bad people fall backwards, onto what they cannot see, because they do not see the consequences of their actions. There is a concordance in Job regarding these two falls; first:
Job rent his garments: and having shaven his head fell down upon the ground. (Jb 1,20)
Our ‘garments’ are the works that cover us, lest we be naked and ashamed. When guilt makes us weep for them, we attack them fiercely, with an angry hand. Then, all conceited and unnecessary thoughts fall away from the mind, like hair from a shaven head, presumptuous thoughts are repressed and we recognise how weak we are in ourselves. It is difficult to do great things, and not to trust one’s own power to accomplish them.
On the second fall, we read:
A mountain falling cometh to nought: and a rock is removed out of its place.
Waters wear away the stones:
and with inundation the ground little by little is washed away. (Jb 14,18-19)
Note that there are two sorts of temptation: one that arise from some sudden event, and another that comes into the mind little by little, and infects the soul by gradual temptation. The meaning is this: just as these inanimate objects sometimes fall suddenly, and sometimes are worn away gradually by the flowing waters: so a man set on high, like a mountain, may be thrown down by a sudden temptation. An example is David, when he saw Bathsheba. Another case is when he is slowly eroded over a long period, like Solomon, with his immoderate and too frequent recourse to women. He who had first built God’s Temple, later set up a house of idols. A ‘rock’ (the just man’s mind) may be removed from its place, from justice to guilt, by a sudden impulse.
‘Stones’ (strength of mind) may be worn away by the waters, by the constant blandishments of lust. The word used suggests erosion by flood-waters.
17. So the Samaritan gave thanks for his cleansing; and the Lord praised him for so doing, saying, Were not ten made clean? He asked where the ungrateful were, as if they were unknown to him. This is a lesson to us, to give thanks to the Lord for the benefits he has given us. If Job blessed God’s name and gave thanks in his sufferings, how much more should we give thanks for so many blessings bestowed on us? Ezechias fell ill because he did not sing a hymn of thanksgiving after his victory. We read that Moses’ sister Miriam, and Deborah and Judith, sang songs to the Lord for victory over their enemies. This teaches us that we should return songs of praise and thanksgiving to God, the bestower of all good things.
In this clause there are three words we should note particularly: ‘one’, ‘Samaritan’ and ‘foreigner’, which represent three virtues. ‘One’ means the concord that comes from unity; ‘Samaritan’ represents the guarding of humility; ‘foreigner’ is finding sufficient for our needs in poverty. These three correspond to the Lord’s words, ‘Rise’, ‘go’ and ‘your faith has saved you’. Arise, for you are at one. Go, for you are a Samaritan. Your faith has saved you, because you are a foreigner. He who lives in unity, rises to the uprightness of good works. He who strengthens himself with the guard of humility, goes safely everywhere. He who signs himself in this world with the mark of poverty, like a stranger, will find that the faith of Jesus Christ, who was poor and a stranger, will save him.
18. The third part of the Epistle is concordant to this clause:
The fruit of the spirit is
charity, (which Augustine calls ‘the soul’s will to enjoy God for his own sake, and self and neighbour for God’s sake),
joy, (purity of conscience),
peace, (tranquil freedom, coming from agreement),
patience, (which we exercise in three ways: enduring some things from God, as sufferings; some from the enemy, as temptation; some from our neighbour, as persecution, injury and insult. We should be wary of all these, so as not to murmur too much against the chastisements of our maker; not to be seduced into consenting to sin; and not to be disturbed by evil, lest by so doing we have to pay for the good things we now enjoy).
longsuffering, (in hope),
goodness, (sweetness of spirit),
kindness, (in giving, being generous, warm and friendly),
meekness, (returning no-one’s injury, being gentle),
faith, (by which we truly believe what we cannot see at all. Properly, we speak of faith when what is said is utterly reliable),
modesty, (observing a proper demeanour in words and deeds), continence, (which abstains even from what is lawful), chastity, (which uses rightly what is lawful). (Ga 5,22-23)
Blessed is that tree which bears such fruit! Blessed is that soul which eats such fruit! You cannot have these fruits unless you return with the one Samaritan and foreigner, fall on your face, and give thanks. Then you will deserve to hear: Rise, go in peace, your faith has saved you.
We ask you, then, Lord Jesus Christ, to keep us in unity, and to guard us in humility and poverty; whereby we may gather the fruits of the spirit from the tree of penitence, and eat of the tree of life in heavenly glory. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
1 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Job 39.21-22
2 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Job 39.27-29
3 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Job 22.27-28
4 GREGORY, Moralia V,46,86; PL 75.729
5 cf. CAESARIUS OF ARLES, Sermo 67
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: No man can serve two masters, which is divided into three clauses.)
(First, a theme for a sermon on the Passion of Jesus Christ, and on the formation of our life from the pattern of his life, on The angel Raphael.)
1. At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: No man can serve two masters. (Mt 6,24)
We read in Tobias that the angel Raphael said to Tobias:
Take out the entrails of the fish, and lay up his heart, and his gall, and his liver for thee; for
these are necessary for useful medicines. (Tb 6,5)
Let us see what is meant by the fish, and by its heart, gall and liver.
The fish is Christ, who says to Peter in Matthew:
Go to the sea and cast in a hook; and the fish which shall first come up, take; and when thou hast opened up its mouth, thou shalt find a stater; take that and give it to them for me and thee. (Mt 17,26)
The fish is Christ, dwelling in this great and wide sea, who first came up (that is, offered himself to death for our redemption) so that what was found in his mouth (confession) might be offered for Peter and the Lord. That fee was appropriate, but divided, because it was for Peter as for a sinner, whereas the Lord did no sin. A stater is worth two didrachmae, showing a likeness to our flesh, since for the same price the Lord and the servant are set free. Alternatively, the stater in Christ’s mouth stands for mercy and justice; mercy, when he said:
Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened; and I will refresh you; (Mt 11,28)
justice, when he said:
Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire. (Mt 25,41)
Take the entrails of this fish- that is, consider carefully the life of Christ himself- and you will find there heart, gall and liver. By the heart we are wise, by the gall we are angry, and by the liver we love. The heart of Jesus Christ denotes his wisdom, the gall his bitter suffering, the liver his love. Season your tastelessness with the savour of wisdom that reacheth from end to end mightily and ordereth all things sweetly (Sg 8,1). Mingle the bitterness of his Passion with your pleasure. Set his love above every love; without it any other should be called sorrow rather than love. These are the medicines useful to your soul, and if you apply them to yourself you will be servant of God, not of the devil; of the spirit, not of the flesh; of heaven, not of the world.
Christ’s wisdom breaks the devil’s dominion, as Job says:
His wisdom hath struck the proud one. (Jb 26,12)
The ancient enemy is struck down by wisdom rather than by might; for while he dared to assail Christ, over whom he had no power, he justly lost man, whom he had held as of right. The bitterness of Christ’s Passion subdues the appetite of the flesh; as someone has said: "The remembrance of the Crucified crucifies vices."1 See in the Gospel: A blind man sat (Quinquagesima). The ointment of his love drives out the poison of riches. The same book of Tobias says that the smoke thereof (that is, the devotion of his love) driveth away all kinds of devils (Tb 6,8), that is, riches that tear and afflict men like demons. All the rich of this world are like people possessed by devils, running hither and thither, serving not the true but the false master. Of them today’s Gospel says: No man can serve two masters.
2. Note that I want to divide this Gospel into three clauses. The first is: No one can. The second is: I say to you, be not solicitous. The third is: Seek first the kingdom of God. The first treats of the two masters; the second drives out anxiety; the third commands us to seek the kingdom of God before all things. Note that on this third Sunday in September, the book of Tobias is read in Church, from which I want to draw some texts and concord with the clauses of the Gospel.
The Introit sung in today’s Mass is: Have mercy on me, O Lord. The Epistle is from that of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians: If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit. I will divide this into three parts and concord them with the aforesaid clauses of the Gospel. The first part is; If we live in the spirit. The second: Bear ye one another’s burdens. The third: He that soweth in the spirit, etc.
Pay attention to the fact that this Epistle is read with this Gospel: in the Gospel the Lord forbids care for our life (our animality) and teaches us to seek the kingdom of God; in the Epistle, Paul teaches us to live according to the spirit, to sow not in the flesh but in the
spirit. He who sows in the latter, reaps eternal life.
(On the two parts of the soul: No man can.)
3. Let us say, then:
No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other; or he will sustain the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Mt 8,24)
The soul has two parts, reason and sensuality, which are like two masters. Of the dominion of reason, Isaac says in Genesis:
I have appointed him thy lord, and have made all his brethren his servants. (Gn 27,37)
This comes about when our own will and the bodily senses are made subject to the rule of reason. Thus Jacob says of Juda, in the same book:
Tying his foal to the vineyard, and his ass, O my son, to the vine. (Gn 49,11)
Juda is the penitent, the vineyard is reason, the vine is compunction, the ass is sensuality and the foal its movements. Juda ties his ass to the vine and the foal to the vineyard, when the penitent subjects his heart’s sensuality to compunction, and lays the yoke of reason upon its movements.
In the same book of Genesis, this passage occurs where Joseph says to his brothers:
I thought we were binding sheaves in the field: and my sheaf arose as it were, and stood, and your sheaves standing about bowed down before my sheaf. His brethren answered: Shalt thou be our king? Or shall we be subject to thy dominion? (Gn 37,7-8)
A sheaf is a bundle of straw such as a hand can hold. Joseph is the just man, and his sheaf is reason. When it arises in contempt of temporal things, and stands still in the height of contemplation, then the sheaves which are the senses of the flesh are made subject to its command. Whence Isaac says in Genesis:
Be thou lord of thy brethren, and let thy mother’s children bow down before thee.(Gn 27,29)
And the children of them that afflict thee (carnal desires) shall come bowing down to thee;
and all that slandered thee shall worship the steps of thy feet. (Is 60,14)
Of the dominion of sensuality, Moses says in Deuteronomy:
Because thou didst not serve the Lord thy God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things:... Thou shalt serve thy enemy... and he shall put an iron yoke upon thy neck, till he consume thee. (Dt 28,47-48)
Because Adam would not serve his superior, his inferior would not serve him; indeed, he himself served his enemy, the devil or his flesh, than which no enemy is more capable of hurt. Its iron yoke, sensuality or carnality, is placed upon the neck of reason. So Ecclesiasticus says;
A heavy yoke is placed upon the children of Adam, from the day of their coming out. (Si 40,1)
There is a heavy yoke on Adam’s children, from the day original sin came forth, the tinder of sin, concupiscence, which (as St Augustine2 says) is not permitted to reign. There are also its desires, actual concupiscences, which are the devil’s weapons arising from the weakness of our nature. This weakness is a tyrant which causes evil desires.
Do you want to hear how heavy is the yoke on Adam’s children? Hear what is written in the Church Dogmatics3 : "Hold most firmly, and in no wise doubt, that every man conceived through the union of a man and a woman is born with original sin, subject to impiety, liable to death and because of this by nature a child of wrath (Ep 2,3), from which no-one can be freed except by faith in the Mediator between God and man."
(On the dominion of reason and sensuality: God gave favour to Tobias; and: When Salmanasar was dead; and on the nature of the beaver.)
4. Let us say, then: No man can serve two masters. Regarding these two masters, there is a concordance in the book of Tobias, where mention is made of Salmanasar and Sennacherib:
God gave Tobias favour in the sight of Salmanasar the king. And he gave him leave to go whithersoever he would, with liberty to do whatever he had a mind. (Tb 1,13-14)
Salmanasar means ‘purifying those in trouble’, and he stands for reason, which when it reigns pacifies the troubled mind, enlightens conscience, delights the heart, smooths what is rough and lightens what is heavy. If a man serves it, he is made free and has the power to go where he wants and do what he wants. What a free servitude, and serving freedom! It is not fear that makes him a servant and love a free man: rather, fear makes
him free and love makes him serve. There is no law for the just man; he is a law to himself (cf. 1Tm 1,9 Rm 2,14). He has charity, he lives according to reason, and so he goes where he wants and does what he wants:
I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid, (Ps 115,16)
says the prophet. Notice those words, servant and son. Because I am a servant, therefore I am a son. O gentle fear, that makes a servant a son! O kind and true love, that makes a son a servant! I am the son of thy handmaid. If you want to enjoy freedom, O man, put your neck into her chains and your feet into her fetters (Si 6,25). There is no greater joy than the joy of freedom, and you cannot attain it unless you put your proud neck into the collar of humility, and the feet of carnal affection into the fetters of mortification. Then you will be able to say, I am thy servant...
Again, in the same book it says that when Salmanasar the king was dead, Sennacherib reigned in his place, who had a hatred for the children of Israel, and commanded that Tobias be slain and all his goods confiscated. Tobias, fleeing naked with his son and his wife, lay hidden (cf Tb 1 Tb 18,22-23). Sennacherib means ‘removing the desert’, and he stands for sensuality, the concupiscence of the flesh, which takes from the human mind the desert of penitence. It cannot reign unless reason dies. Virtue goes out so that vice may come in. Concupiscence hates the children of Israel, penitents who crucify their flesh with its vices and concupiscences (cf. Ga 5,24). So it says in Exodus:
The Egyptians hated the children of Israel. (Ex 1,13)
By means of its followers, the bodily senses, it tries to kill the spirit and take away all its goods, the virtues. They are called our ‘substance’, because they sustain a man, lest he fall away from what is eternal. To keep them, he must flee with son and wife, and lie hidden.
Note the three words, fleeing, naked and lying hid. Do you want to escape the concupiscence of the flesh? Flee! Flee fornication (1Co 6,18). So it says in Genesis that Joseph,
leaving his garment in his mistress’s hand, fled and went out. (Gn 39,12)
He left his garment rather than lose God. Natural History tells us that the animal called the beaver has testicles which are medicinal for the cure of paralysis, and for this reason it is pursued by hunters. Realising that this is why they hunt it, it tears them off and falls on its pursuers. It is called (in Latin) castor, because it castrates itself. Foolish man does the opposite: he surrenders to the devil for the sake of his worthless glands, for vile lust. Flee from sins as from the face of a serpent, says Ecclesiasticus (21.2).
Again, he is naked if he attributes nothing to himself, but everything to God. He does not hide himself with Adam among the fig-leaves, covering himself with excuses and
blaming other people. He knows that he is as naked as when he came from his mother’s womb.
Again, he lies hidden when he shuts himself up in a quiet conscience, far from the noise of worldly folk and evil thoughts. He lies hidden when he bears injury patiently, when he does not grumble in adversity or boast in prosperity.
The wife and son of Tobias are goodwill and good deeds, which should accompany us wherever we go. As Matthew says (Mt 2,13): Take the child (purity of deed) and his mother (goodwill, that gives it birth) and fly into Egypt (recognise yourself as a poor exile, and consider the darkness of your sins), and be there until I shall tell thee (recognise that you are a sinner, and ponder on your exile until the time I say: Arise, make haste, my love, and come. For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone (Ct 2,10-11)). If you want to make haste, you must fly from Sennacherib, and serve reason, not sensuality.
Let us say, then, No man can serve two masters.
(On the Testament of God’s love: All the days of thy life.)
5. There follows; For either he will hate the one and love the other; or he will sustain the one and despise the other. Note these four words: love and sustain, hate and despise. If you love life, hate life; if you sustain a superior, you will despise an inferior; and, conversely, love yourself as God made you and loved you, but hate yourself to the extent that you have hated what God made and loved in you. This is what Tobias said to his son:
All the days of thy life have God in thy mind,
and take heed thou never consent to sin,
nor transgress the commandments of our God. (Tb 4,6)
O word sweeter than honey and the honeycomb: Always have God in thy mind! O mind that has God, blessed above all blessedness, happy above all happiness! What is lacking to you? What can be added to you? You have all things, having him who made all things, who alone fills you and without whom all that is, is nothing. Therefore, always have God in your mind.
See what a Testament Tobias drew up for his son, what a legacy he left him! Always have God in your mind. O possession that possesses all things, blessed is he who possesses you, happy he who has you! O God, what can I give, that I may possess you? Do you suppose that if I gave everything there is, I would be able to have you? What price could I offer for you? You are higher than heaven, deeper than hell, wider than the earth and broader than the sea. How then can a worm, ‘a dead dog, a single flea’ (cf 1R 24 1R 15), a son of man, have you? As Job says:
Silver shall not be weighed in exchange for it.
It shall not be compared with the dyed colours of India, or with the most precious stone sardonyx, or the sapphire.
Gold or crystal cannot equal it;
neither shall any vessels of gold be changed for it. (Jb 28,15-16)
O Lord God, I do not have these things, so what must I give to have you? "Give me yourself," he says, "and I will give you myself. Give your mind and you will have me in your mind. Keep all your possessions for yourself, just give me your mind. I am full of your words, I have no need of your deeds: just give me your mind." Note that it says, ‘always’. Do you want to have God in your mind always? Then have yourself always before your mind’s eye. Where your eye is, there is your mind. Always have an eye on yourself. I put three things before you: your mind, your eye, yourself. God is in your mind, your mind is in your eye, your eye is in you. So if you see yourself, you have God in yourself. Do you want to have God always in your mind? Be just as he made you to be. Do not go seeking another ‘you’. Do not make yourself otherwise than he made you. Then you will always have God in mind.
There follows: You cannot serve God and mammon. The Gloss says here: "Mammon, in the Syrian tongue, is wealth. To serve it is to deny God. He does not say, having them: that is lawful. He says, serving: the mark of a miser. It is said that this is the name of a demon who presides over wealth; not because they are in his gift, but because he uses them to deceive, setting snares of riches." Cursed mammon! Alas, how many religious he has blinded! How many monks he has infatuated! How many seculars he has cast into hell! This is the swallows’ dung that blinded the eyes of Tobias. (See the Gospel: A blind man sat by the wayside (Quinquagesima).)
6. To this first clause, the first part of the Epistle is concordant:
If we live in the spirit, let us walk in the spirit (Ga 5,25).
In this first part the Apostle includes two things, reason and the concupiscence of the flesh. From reason it comes that we live and walk in the spirit, that is in a spiritual way of life. From concupiscence it comes that we are made desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another (Ga 5,26). Again, from the concupiscence of the flesh it comes that someone is preoccupied in some sin; but it is from reason that spiritual people, who make use of reason, correct the offender in a spirit of gentleness, because it belongs to reason (as we have said) to pacify those in trouble.
We ask you then, Lord Jesus Christ, to pour the light of your grace into us, whereby we
may live according to reason, subdue the flesh, and come at last to you who are life. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever. Amen.
(A theme for a sermon against solicitude for temporal things: I say to you, be not solicitous; and: Cyrus wishing.)
7. There follows, secondly:
I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than the meat and the body more than the raiment? Behold the birds of the air, etc. ()
Notice that there are three things specially to be noted in this second clause: the birds, the lilies and the grass; and we shall discuss each of them.
I say to you, lest by care for things that are nothing you be held back from those that are eternal, be not solicitous (because this is to serve riches) for your life, your animal nature for which food and clothing are necessary. The Gloss says here, "Bread is prepared in the sweat of your brow. Labour must be expended, but care must be taken away, care that disturbs the mind with the fear that we may lose what we do not hang on to, that what we have worked for may fail." Is not your life more than food? The actual word is ‘soul’, but it means the life that food sustains. It as if to say, he who gave the greater things (life and the body) will also give the lesser (food and clothing). No-one should doubt these promises of Truth. If a man is as he should be, at once all things are added to him. They were made for him. Care distracts the mind, and when the mind is distracted it is divided, and when it is divided the devil seizes it and kills it.
We read in the Histories4 , on the story of Daniel, that Cyrus, wishing to capture the city of Babylon, divided the Euphrates some way from the city into several streams. The channel that flowed through the city was made fordable, and so by it the enemy entered the city under the wall, and king Balthassar was slain. The city is the soul, the Euphrates is the human mind, the channel is the grace of the Holy Spirit. When the devil wants to capture our soul, he first divides our mind by many cares. Some of them appear to be necessary, others appear to be fraternal charity; and as he thus divides it, the stream of compunction is dried up, and when it is dried up the city is captured, and reason perishes. I say to you, then, be not solicitous.
(For contemplatives: Behold the birds of the air; and: Tobias, of the tribe; and on the nature of birds.)
8. There follows:
Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. (Mt 6,26)
The birds are the saints, who fly to heaven on the wings of contemplation, who are so removed from the world that they have no business on earth. They do not labour, but by contemplation alone they already live in heaven. There is a concordance on this in the book of Tobias, where we read of Tobias himself, and of Anna (sic: he means Sara) the daughter of Raguel, that they were like two birds in the sky. Of Tobias it says:
Tobias of the tribe and city of Nephthali (which is in the upper parts of Galilee above Naasson, beyond the way that leadeth to the west, having on the left hand the city of Sephet). (Tb 1,1)
Tobias means ‘the good man of the Lord’; Nephthali is ‘breadth’; Galilee, ‘a wheel’; Naasson, ‘an augury’; Sephet, ‘a letter’ or ‘beauty’.
Tobias is any just man who believes that the good he has in himself is not his own, but the Lord’s, saying with the prophet: Thou hast done well with thy servant, O Lord (Ps 118,65); and with Isaiah; Thou hast wrought all our works, O Lord (Is 26,12); He made us, and not we ourselves (Ps 99,3). This good lord is said to be of the tribe and city of Naphtali. He is the son and citizen of ‘breadth’, that is, of charity:
Thy commandment is exceeding broad. (Ps 118,96)
Christ established a covenant with his children,
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (Jn 15,12)
The just man, like a son, possesses it as his rightful inheritance, and always dwells in it as in a city:
I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord, (Si 24,11) because
My inheritance is goodly to me. (Ps 15,6)
And where is this city? In the upper part of Galilee, above Naasson. Behold the bird flying upwards! The Lord says in John:
I am from above, you are from beneath. (Jn 8,23)
You go about the earth like a wheel, rolling to destruction. You roll downhill from vice to vice. The city of the just man, the good man of the Lord, is not in the lower parts, but the
upper parts of Galilee, seeking what is above and leaving behind what is spinning below. His city is above Naasson, an augury of things above, contemplating heavenly things. See how beautifully concordant the history is with the Gospel!
Augury is the study of the sounds and behaviour of birds, observing what birds say and do. A bird follows no set pathway, and the contemplative who flies above has no direct route, since contemplation is not from the will of the contemplative, but in the disposition of the Creator, who infuses the sweetness of contemplation into whoever he will, when and how he wills. So Jeremiah says:
I know, O Lord, that the way of a man is not his:
neither is it in a man to walk and to direct his steps. (Jr 10,23)
Note, too, that some birds have long legs, and fly with them stretched out behind, while others have short legs and feet, and draw them up to their bellies as they fly, so that they do not get in the way. Short feet do not impede flying. There are two kinds of contemplative. Some have to care for others, and this is a hindrance to them. Others have no such responsibilities, for themselves or for others, and they pay no heed to their own needs. The former have ‘long legs’, the latter short ones. When the former give themselves to prayer, and fly in contemplation, they should let their feet, their concern for others’ needs, stretch out behind them, so as not to hinder their flight. My brother: when you are serving your brother, set your feet before you, devote yourself entirely to him; but when you are attending to God, let your feet stretch behind, so that your flight may be free. Forget what lies behind, the duties and good deeds you have been engaged in, and will do again, and in prayer set aside all thoughts of them. They often occur, and they greatly hinder the mind of the contemplative. The second kind, the ‘short legged’, who do not attend to others or themselves, as it were draw up their feet to their bellies (I mean their affections, brief and short). They recollect themselves, so that with unified mind they may fly more easily, and fix their mind’s eye with unshakeable gaze upon the golden splendour of the sun. It is appropriate, then, that Tobias was of the tribe and city of Nephthali, which is in the upper parts of Galilee above Naasson.
9. There follows: Beyond the way that leadeth to the west, having on the left hand the city of Sephet. The just man leaves behind the broad way that leads to ‘sunset’- death. The prophet says:
Let their way become dark and slippery:
and let the angel of the Lord pursue them. (Ps 34,6)
In this present life, the way of sinners is dark because of their mental blindness, and slippery from their evildoing. At death, the bad angel will pursue them and drive them until he casts them into the abyss of burning fire. The just man leaves on his left hand the city of Sephet, letters and beauty, because he reckons false and ‘sinister’ that
science which is falsely so-called, and he rejects worldly philosophy and temporal beauty. Behold, then, the birds of the air!.
The same book speaks then of Anna (i.e. Sara), saying that:
She went into an upper chamber of her house; and for three days and three nights did neither eat nor drink. But continuing in prayer with tears, she besought the Lord. (Tb 3,10-11)
See Anna (meaning ‘grace’) going above like a bird on the wing! Even so the just man goes into the upper chamber of his mind. Christ on the mountain and Daniel in his upper room prayed like that. Eliseus and Elias both had upper rooms, and Christ celebrated the Pasch in the upper room. For three days and three nights, because in prosperity and in adversity the just man offers prayer to the Holy Trinity. Notice the order: first she went into the upper chamber, then she neither ate nor drank, then she continued in prayer, and shed tears. Whoever wants to fly must proceed in the same way. First he must raise his mind from earthly things, then he must afflict his body, persevere in prayer and shed tears. As the Gloss says, "Prayer softens God, and tears compel him. One soothes, the other pricks." So, behold the birds of the air!
And see how well the Introit of today’s Mass is concordant with this Sunday’s history: Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I have cried to thee all the day...
For thou, O Lord, art sweet and mild:
and plenteous in mercy to all that call upon thee. (Ps 85,3 Ps 85,5)
We read in the same book that Tobias and Anna (ie. Sara) cried to the Lord, begging for mercy:
Tobias began to pray with tears, saying:
Thou art just, O Lord, and all thy judgements are just; and all thy ways mercy and truth...
And now, O Lord, do with me mercifully according to thy will. (TB ,
And Anna (i.e. Sara):
Blessed is thy name, O God of our fathers:
who when thou hast been angry with us shew mercy,
and in the time of tribulation forgivest the sins of them that call upon thee...
But this every one is sure of that worshippeth thee,
that his life, if it be under trial, shall be crowned
and if it be under correction, it shall be allowed to come to thy mercy.
For thou art not delighted in our being lost
because after a storm thou makest a calm,
and after tears and weeping thou pourest in joyfulness.
Be thy name, O God of Israel, blessed for ever. (Tb 3,13)
Well may both say, with the Introit, ‘Have mercy on me...’ And it is clear from what follows how he was sweet and mild and plenteous in mercy to those who called on him:
At that time the prayers of them both were heard in the sight of the glory of the most high God. And the holy angel of the Lord, Raphael, was sent to heal them both, whose prayers at one time were rehearsed in the sight of God. (Tb 3,24-25)
(Against the lovers of vanity: I have seen those who work iniquity.)
10. Let us return to our matter: Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns. Note these three words: first, ‘sow’, to plant seeds; second, ‘reap’; third, ‘gather’. Let us see what they mean. Job says:
I have seen those who work iniquity, and sow sorrows, and reap them,
perishing by the blast of God and consumed by the spirit of his wrath. (Jb 4,8-9)
He ‘sows sorrows’ by doing wrong; he ‘reaps’ when he profits from wrongdoing.
Of this, the prophet Hosea says:
You have ploughed wickedness, you have reaped iniquity, you have eaten the fruit of lying. (Os 10,13)
He ‘ploughs wickedness’ when he schemes evil in his heart. He ‘reaps iniquity’ when he
carries out what he has schemed in his heart. He ‘eats the fruit of lying’ when he makes excuses for the evil he has done, assuring himself that he will not be punished for his wickedness. The serpent ploughed wickedness, Eve reaped iniquity, and Adam ate the fruit of lying when he said, The woman, whom thou gavest me, gave me... (Gn 3,12). The devil ploughed by tempting, the flesh reaped by taking pleasure, and the spirit ate when reason gave in to sensuality. So Job says, I have seen those who work iniquity, and sow sorrows, and reap them, perishing by the blast of God. When we breathe, we draw air in from outside, and blow it out from inside. God is said to ‘blast’ retribution, because from outward causes he conceives his inner counsel of judgement, and from that inner counsel he sends forth his sentence. Because of our evil deeds, which he sees outwardly, he disposes himself to inward judgement; and from his inward thought condemnation is brought about outwardly.
0 blind lovers of money and pleasure, blinded by the swallows’ dung, the devil’s mammon! Behold the birds of the air, those who contemplate heavenly things! They do not sow wickedness, they do not reap iniquity, and they do not gather the fruit of lying. Therefore the heavenly Father feeds them with tears of compunction, bitter sighing, and the desire for eternal things. He feeds them by printing upon them the poverty and humility of his Incarnation, the sorrow of his Passion, and the joy of his Resurrection. He feeds them with the sweetness of contemplation and the tenderness of heavenly beatitude.
(On contempt of the world and the contemplation of God: He who goes in by me.)
11. Christ himself says in John:
By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved;
and he shall go in and go out, and shall find pastures. (Jn 10,9)
By me: that is, through my side, opened by the spear. If any man enter in by faith, suffering and compassion, he will be safe, like a dove in a rock-cleft hiding from a hawk that is trying to catch it. He will go in so as to look at, criticise and test himself; and he will go out to consider, trample, despise and shun the variegated world. The life of the just man always consists in these two things: on going in, to find nothing except cause for weeping; on going out, to see nothing but what should be shunned.
In going out there is sadness, and so the penitent says in the psalm:
1 walked sorrowful all the day long. (Ps 37,7)
Poor souls that we are, why should we not be sorrowful? Only if we fail to go in and consider our evil and wretched state. Oh, if only you would go into yourself, you would see nothing there but sorrow and trouble. Laughter would stop, there would be no room for merrymaking; grief and sorrow would bury every pleasure. Anna (i.e. Sara) the
daughter of Raguel entered into herself when she said:
Thou knowest, O Lord, that I never coveted a husband, and have kept my soul clean from all lust.
Never have I joined myself with them that play;
neither have I made myself partaker with them that walk in lightness. (Tb 3,16-17)
Again, in the going out of the just man there is a flight, so that he says:
I have gone far away, flying away; and I abode in the wilderness. (Ps 54,8)
He goes in and out, and finds pastures everywhere, in Christ’s side, in his sorrow and his contempt for the world. So he can say, My delight is to be with the Son of man (cf. Pr 8,31), hanging on the wood of the Cross, fastened with nails, offered gall and vinegar to drink, his side pierced. O my soul, these are your delights, in these you are fulfilled and find joy. Whence Isaiah says to you:
Then thou shalt see and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged. (Is 60,5)
You will see, my soul, the Son of God hanging on the Cross, and you will abound with joy, and be flooded with tears. Your heart will wonder at the Father’s kindness, when he saw his Son hanging but did not take him down. Father, how could you restrain yourself? How was it that you did not rend the heavens and come down, and free your Beloved? In this wonderment, your heart will be enlarged to love the Father, who gave his Son to redeem you, and his Spirit to work in you.
Again, in sorrow of heart and contempt for the world the just man finds pastures for himself. So Job says of the wild ass (the penitent):
He looketh round about the mountains of his pasture,
and seeketh for every green thing. (Jb 39,8)
The mountains of pasture are the heights of contemplation which inwardly refresh. When he looks round them, he is moved to sorrow and weeping. It is the mark of a penitent to ‘seek every green thing’, to despise what is transitory and to desire an eternal dwelling. All temporal things dry up when the joys of this present life reach their appointed end, as if parched by the summer sun; but evergreen are those things that no temporal end can dry up. The Lord says well, then: The heavenly Father feeds them.
Which of you by taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
And for raiment why are you solicitous? (Mt 6,27-28)
Previously he spoke of food; now he speaks of raiment. Stop bothering about measuring and clothing the body. He gives an example to reinforce his counsel:
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they labour not, neither do they spin.
But I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. (Mt 6,28-29)
The Gloss adds: "What kingly purple, what embroidery, can compare with the flowers? Colour itself is called the flowers’ clothing, so that we say, it is covered with red." Solomon, who flourished more than anyone else, in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these flowers. He could not dress himself, as the lily does, in anything so snow-white; nor anything as red as a rose, and so for the rest.
(On the three characteristics of the lily, and their meaning: Consider the lilies of the field.)
12. Morally. Note that lilies have three properties: they are medicinal; they are white, and they are scented. The medicinal property is in the root, the whiteness and the scent are in the flower. lilies represent penitents, poor in spirit and crucifying their members with their vices and desires, who have humility in their hearts to repress the swelling of pride; the whiteness of chastity in their bodies; and the scent of a good reputation. They are called lilies of the field, not of the desert or of the garden. The field represents two things: established holiness and perfect charity. The field is the world, in which it is difficult, and to the same extent glorious, to survive. Hermits flower in the desert, avoiding human contact. Enclosed religious flower in a walled garden, and human concerns escape them. But it is a more glorious thing for penitents to flower in the field of the world, where the two-fold grace of the flower easily perishes: namely, the beauty of a virtuous way of life, and the scent of a good reputation.
Christ glories in being a flower of the field, saying in Canticles:
I am the flower of the field. (Ct 2,1)
This is the way blessed Mary, his Mother, is able to glory. She did not lose her bloom in the world, although she was neither recluse nor nun. She reckoned it to be more glorious to flower in the world than in the garden or in the desert. Even though it is a more perilous thing (as Augustine5 says), it can be a happier one. The field and plain are where battles are fought, and in the world the warfare that the flesh, the world and the devil wage is continual. A solid holiness is needed, unbroken by any attack. Whoever wants to go out to battle in the field, must first test his ability to stand firm in so cruel a struggle. Better to flower in garden or desert, than to wither in the field. Far better to stand in the former than to fall in the latter. The expression ‘lilies of the field’ also indicates the perfection of charity, which lays itself open to any passer-by that wants to pluck it. ‘Give to anyone who asks you’, says the Lord (Lc 6,30), at least in terms of good will, if you lack resources; but if you can give both, all the better.
Consider, then, the lilies of the field, how they grow. They labour not, neither do they spin. Note these three things: they grow, they do not labour, they do not spin. In the same way the just grow from virtue to virtue, because they do not labour, or spin (twisting thread). They do not labour over the bricks of Egypt, the pleasures of the flesh. They do not spin, twisting the various threads of thought, with regard to temporal things. Do you want to grow? Do not labour in yourself, or spin in the world; and thus you will be poor. Joseph says in Genesis:
God hath made me grow in the land of my poverty. (Gn 41,42)
In the land of poverty, humility of heart, the just man grows. As he grows less in himself, so God grows more in him. As John the Baptist said,
I must decrease, but he must increase.(cf. Jn 3,30)
When you lessen youself, God grows in you; as Isaiah says:
The least shall become a thousand,
and a little one a most strong nation. (Is 60,22)
This comes about when he who is humble in his own eyes is raised up in perfection of mind and work. As the psalm says:
Man shall come to a deep heart:
and God shall be exalted. (Ps 63,8)
Depth may refer to highness or lowness; heaven, or the sea. When you come to a ‘deep heart’, the lowness of humility, God is exalted in you because he makes you to be raised above the vain things that cause affliction of spirit (cf. Qo 1,14). So consider, you creatures of time, you lovers of the fleeting moment, who labour and are burdened, who spin a never-ending thread: consider how the lilies of the field grow.
(Against the wise of this world: I say to you that not even Solomon.)
13. There follows: I say to you that not even Solomon... Solomon, the wisest of men, represents the worldy-wise who, in all their frivolous and fleeting glory, in all their pretentious knowledge and misleading eloquence, are not arrayed like one of these poor of Christ. These are clad in the whiteness of purity, the former in the crimson of carnal desire. These are clad in poverty and nakedness, the former are stripped by their very abundance. Clothed in iniquity and impiety (cf. Ps 72,6), they are stripped of virtue. Being clothed here, they will be naked hereafter. So the Lord says of them:
And if the grass of the field, which is today and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe; how much more you, O ye of little faith? (Mt 6,30)
The grass which feeds the fire stands for carnal folk whom God clothes ‘today’, in the present life (that is, he permits them to be clothed) with temporal things; and ‘tomorrow’, in the future, he will cast into the oven of burning fire. As Isaiah says:
Behold, all you that kindle a fire, encompassed with flames,
walk in the light of your fire, and in the flames which you have kindled.
This is done to you by my hand; you shall sleep in sorrows. (Is 50,11)
In the fire you have kindled here, you will be burnt there. Do you want to avoid this? Do not kindle it; or if you have kindled it, put it out- I mean the fire of sin.
Note the two adverbs, ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’. Today the sinner is, tomorrow he is not. Today he is clothed, tomorrow he is cast into the oven. As the first book of Maccabees says:
Fear not the words of a sinful man, for his glory is dung and worms: today he is lifted up, and tomorrow he shall not be found,
because he is returned into his earth and his thought is come to nothing. (1M 2,62-63) Today the sinner is clthed, and tomorrow he is cast into the oven. As Isaiah says:
The garment mingled with blood shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire. (Is 9,5)
The soul which dresses itself up in the garment of riches, with the blood of carnal
pleasure, will be food for the eternal fire. If the grass, etc.: as if to say, if God superfluities to carnal folk who are children of the eternal fire, to their own harm: how much more will he grant what is necessary to you who are faithful?
Be not solicitous, therefore, saying: What shall we eat; or, What shall we drink; or, Wherewith shall we be clothed? (Mt 6,31)
He returns to what he said at the beginning, and stresses it even more fully, that we should live without solicitude. The Gloss says of this text: "Here, he seems to criticize those who spurn the common food or clothing, and want food or clothing that is either finer or more austere than that of those with whom they live." After all these things do the heathens seek (Mt 6,32). n future, no-one will care about them. What more can you expect of a heathen, who, because he has no faith, worries and wearies his mind with worldly cares? Care makes you like a heathen, a man without faith. For your Father knoweth, that you have need of all these things (Mt 6,32). He does not close his heart to his dear children, so listen to your Father and do not doubt. He does give, if only your faithlessness does not prevent it.
14. To this second clause, the second part of the epistle is concordant:
Bear ye one anothers’ burdens; and so you shall fulfil the law of Christ. (Ga 6,2)
You cannot carry someone else’s burden unless you first put down your own. Disburden yourself first of your own, and you will be able to carry someone else’s. When you are like a bird in the sky, or a lily in the field, you will be able to carry the burdens, the troubles and infirmities, of your neighbour, as if it were your own load. So you will fulfil Christ’s law of Charity: he bore our sins in his body on the tree (1P 2,24).
We ask you then, Lord Jesus Christ, to raise us from earthly things on the wings of virtue, and to clothe us in the whiteness of purity; whereby we may bear the burdens of our brother’s weakness, and come to you who bore our burdens. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)